One Friday down by the river Havel

Saunas in Berlin are currently under official limitations regarding the Aufguss/steam/löyly that is allowed. However, we learned that the surrounding Brandenburg is a bit more lax with their regulations – great pretext for a sauna trip to our neighboring state! So one Friday in early in November we took a whole day off and jumped in a train to Werder (Havel), heading to Havel-Therme.

Havel-Therme is a full-fledged spa with pools and water slides. Most of our reviews deal with smaller Kiez-Saunas in Berlin proper, but the city is actually surrounded by spas in all directions. They are considerably larger operations with the aforementioned pools and water slides, making them popular with families, but many of them also boast an impressive number of saunas that suit our tastes just right. We don’t cover these spas as often simply because they require a bit more travel than is convenient on a regular weekday evening.

Havel-Therme is a brand new place that opened in June 2021. It’s divided in three sections: spa, saunas, and family baths. You’ll need to pay extra to get to the sauna area, and this probably contributes to it basically being adults only – families with kids stay with the water slides of the family area. The sauna section has seven saunas with a suitably complete Aufgussplan, three steam rooms, two pools, and a restaurant. Let’s cover the saunas first:

Banja

The first available Aufguss took place in a Banja sauna, and was advertised as a hot one in the Aufgussplan, but to our disappointment it turned out not to be so hot at all. The biggest reason for this is that the sauna has a very high ceiling, causing the heat to rise above bathers’ heads (this seems to be a common construction error around here). On the positive note we had a surprising first time experience in a German sauna, something called the Wenik-Zeremonie. Yes, we are already familiar with Saunameisters using the birch whisks as part of the Aufguss rituals, but this was the first time that the customers were actually allowed to beat themselves with one (a common practice in Finland). We took our turns of course, but for a proper enjoyment the heat level should have been a lot higher. It was fun though to observe the reactions of the (mostly German) clientele. For most of them this seemed to be the first birch beating ever.

1001-Lichter Sauna

Probably the most beautiful of all the saunas in Havel-Therme. As the name suggests, the ceiling consists of led stars, the walls of some oriental style ornamentations and the atmosphere overall is very dreamy. The Aufguss here was clearly on a hotter side too, combined with a sort of gong meditation session. Very good!

Piniensauna

This sauna was the only one with no Aufgusses available. Instead the sauna offers a fireplace. There was no fire in the fireplace though. But the sauna itself was warmed up to a quite decent heat level, and we were able to enjoy a very nice in-between-Aufgusses warm up session.

Olivensauna

Olivensauna is apparently named after an olive tree that grows outside the sauna. The sauna itself has an interesting architecture with some odd angles. We visited the sauna after finishing a small Aufguss-spree, and were a bit exhausted to start with. The Aufguss turned out to be quite enjoyable nevertheless.

Kräutersauna

The smallest of the saunas, also with the mildest Aufguss. We were a bit too late, and couldn’t find a spot on the highest bench anymore. During the Aufguss we couldn’t really feel any heat, it was just like sitting in a warm room. But that’s the idea of these Kräutersaunas we suppose: relaxation and warmth. Not everybody likes killer infusions. We of course do. 

Brique-Sauna

Literally brick sauna, this sauna is all bricks except for the benches and the roof. Looks very cozy. Heat is a bit lower, around 65°C, so you can sit here even a longer while, just thinking of whatever you need to think. All the Aufgusses in this sauna are mild too so that won’t disturb your meditation session too severely.

Alhambra-Eventsauna

Alhambra is the big sauna in this place and easily seats several dozen people on four levels, with a panoramic view to a lake (if you can see it without glasses). Heat is dry and quite fine on the upper levels between Aufgusses too, but the Augfuss here is something you should not miss. In the schedule it was simply called “surprise”, and that’s exactly what we were up for on each of the three rounds we took here:

  • First round – syrupy scents with Mariah Carey Christmas songs. We were a bit flabbergasted, and not totally convinced.
  • Second round – full one-man spectacle with a colored light show, a fog machine pushing smoke from under the sauna oven, and a Saunameister rock show to the beat of AC/DC. Still a bit stunned but intrigued.
  • Third round – atmospheric night lighting, smoke screen again, and a Saunameister delivering Aufguss while interpreting Boléro by Maurice Ravel with snowballs and a massive fan. We were almost as floored as the theatrical Saunameister himself after the show was over!

This spectacle alone could be a reason to visit Havel-Therme for everyone but the most uptight sauna purists among us. On the one hand such sauna shows leave us a bit baffled – what did I just witness? On the other hand, it is very refreshing to see how sauna culture can be taken to so different directions when not taken too seriously.


Beers are available in the restaurant, or in either of the two pools of the sauna area. There is a bar that is extending to the outside pool with underwater seating. A second, smaller pool inside in the middle of the restaurant has a similar arrangement. The pools, like all saunas, are textile free (meaning no swimsuits allowed).

Day ticket for the sauna area is 35€ and beers are 3.90€ each. Restaurant menu you’ll find on the spa website. We have to give a special mention to the draft wheat beer Erdinger Urweizen that they carry, a very tasty refreshment between sauna rounds!

We left around nine in the evening, and there were people still just entering at that hour. On weekend evenings the last Aufguss is served at one o’clock at night. We are intrigued if that means that Havel-Therme turns into a local nightlife hotspot at the late hours. Maybe we’ll find out the next time – there sure will be a next time, as this is a fine spa indeed.


Pros:

  • Many saunas, and a separate area for them
  • Very easy check in and check out
  • Easy train trip even though this one is in Brandenburg
  • Very friendly service

Cons:

  • Located right next to Havel, but has no access to the water

Conclusion:

Great destination for a day trip both for couples and friend groups. Frequent Aufgusses.

Saunasplash 2021

We had our hopes lifted high again after the slight disappointment of our last Aufgusless sauna visit: it was time for Saunasplash, the mobile sauna festival we’d already visited in 2019. Perhaps now we would be able to enjoy some proper löyly again. After all, a negative corona test result was required also from fully vaccinated guests – maybe this would give the festival some freedoms regarding corona restrictions, we hoped.

The event was sold out for all three days

It was a mellow Sunday afternoon, and we headed down to Plötzensee with anticipation, but grew a bit worried as we saw a longish queue leading to the festival grounds. The last Saunasplash had not been this packed as far as we could remember. After a security check, corona test inspection and a short briefing, we slipped out of our clothes and started exploring. Indeed, the place was already quite crowded, and the overall area seemed to be a bit smaller than the last time. On the other hand, the number of saunas was higher!

Le Camion

We started with the Le Camion, sauna truck that is familiar from multiple earlier reviews. This sauna never disappoints, and after an excruciating one and a half years, we were able to get our first proper Aufguss in a public sauna in Berlin. A huge step towards normality, thank you Le Camion!

RoSa, die Rollende Sauna

We also knew RoSa from our previous Saunasplash visit. A lot more spacious, but not as hot as Le Camion. Nevertheless, an Aufguss got our sweat flowing nicely, making the short stay quite enjoyable. A peculiarity of this sauna was a fairytale, playing from speakers for all sauna guests to become absorbed in.

Firefit

Curiously Firefit was busy this evening hosting some kind of sauna interviews with professional looking recording equipment. Finally on our third attempt the interviews were done and we managed to slip in without a queue. Excellent heat, and a bit of water on the stove gave an Aufguss with a good bite. Great again!

Le Camion on the left, Firefit straight ahead

SaunaHoch13

One of the usual suspects at the mobile sauna events, SaunaHoch13 was standing on the corner of the Plötzensee pier. And as always, this was about as warm as an office room in summer without air conditioning. You can sit here until you get bored, or until you feel sorry for the people queuing outside. Needs a lot more heat.

Mysterious tent saunas

Next we visited two tent saunas that were standing on the Plötzensee beach. Sadly we didn’t take good notes of the names of these saunas so their identities shall remain a mystery.

  • A quite large white sauna with a two-level seating arrangement around a stove. Interior looked nice, but wasn’t too warm at all. We enjoyed the atmosphere for a while before giving up and looking for something warmer.
  • A smaller black tent sauna with two long benches facing each other, fitting six people in total. This sauna was equipped with an Intent tent sauna stove. The sauna was warm enough at the spots closest to the stove, but sitting farther away leaves you wanting again. Anyway, best of the tent saunas we tested this time.

Schweißperle

We closed the evening by visiting a new sight, a caravan sauna called Schweißperle. Evening was at full swing and the queues at their longest. Thankfully we were lining right behind a choir that had been performing earlier and we were treated to a selection of queuing songs.

Sauna itself was great too. Warm enough, and some self-service Aufguss was available. The steam had a good bite, and while it didn’t linger around too long it was quite enough to drive people out in regular intervals. A comical surprise was that the aforementioned choir also knew a traditional Finnish sauna song (Löylyä lissää), and were singing it with great enthusiasm and joy.

Saunasplash by night

This year’s event was a lot more popular than the previous installment in 2019. Nice for the busier vibe, and great that the community has grown, but this also meant that all saunas had queues. With tent saunas the queuing gets exacerbated as the lukewarm air makes everyone stay longer to warm up properly. We assume this is the new normal for these events, so get in early if you don’t like the idea of sauna queues.

Due to this popularity and long queues we failed our usual mission of testing all the saunas. Plötzensee has two beach saunas that we will have to review another time, and there were five additional tent saunas we didn’t have time to visit. This time the event had also some additional program such as naked yoga, but we skipped these temptations too.

It was a bit unclear if Aufguss was officially allowed or if some corona restrictions were still limiting it. There definitely was a lack of Aufguss water in many of the saunas, which would be a point of criticism under normal circumstances.

But overall the festival was very enjoyable, relaxed, fun and colorful. One word probably describes it better than any other: Berlin.

Farewell to the pandemic at Vabali Spa

It’s been a surreal one and a half years without a sauna review. Berlin had a strict closure of all public saunas for the pandemic lock-down periods, and we didn’t take our chances with the temporary reopening in summer 2020. Especially for many Finns living abroad this has been the longest time in their lives without a sauna, and surely a sweatless suffering for all sauna enthusiasts worldwide.

However, now that most people have received their vaccinations we can finally resume the flow of steam for good. Or, so we thought when we embarked to visit the oasis at the center of Berlin, Vabali Spa.

Entrance to Vabali

We chose to visit on a Tuesday evening to avoid any potential weekend crowds at this popular spa. It became clear right away that this wasn’t going to be a full return to normalcy yet: Berlin still has a strict no-Aufguss policy in place. We’d have to survive without the steam a bit longer. In addition, the normal pandemic measures were in place – masks inside (except in the sauna room), and the usual mandate of one-pony social distancing.

Vabali is a newcomer in the Berlin sauna scene, having opened as recently as 2014. It hosts 10 saunas in two floors, some of the sauna rooms located inside a main building and some as separate sauna huts in a garden-like outdoor area. The garden is bordered by a park with tall trees, giving an impression of a bit more remote location than just a ten minute walk from the Berlin main railway station. There are two big swimming pools, cold and warm pools, numerous Ruheraums and a restaurant, everything Bali-themed. We of course were mainly interested in the saunas, the biggest ones seating up to 70 people, and the smaller ones a bit over a dozen.

Vabali Spa press photo

Of the ten saunas we found seven and tested six – we totally missed the location of the two steam rooms and a women’s sauna. It’s a surprisingly big place. It was not so easy to make a difference between the saunas because of the pandemic and lack of Aufgusses. Our favourite ended up being the Gartensauna that was heated up to 95 degrees, and the Russian style Banja at 70 degrees. Even without an infusion, it was easy to get the juices flowing in these two. The other saunas were popular with the other visitors, but trying to get a proper sweat in these now without an Aufguss would be an exercise in frustration.

This was definitely not a representative take without the Saunameisters. Vabali is a wonderful place, and once the steam is back we’ll be back too to write a better review with the traditional judgement of pros and cons. For now, we’re just happy to have the saunas heating up again and the blog back to life!

Saunarivm – The Roman temple in Pankow

Our first sauna for this year was founded in Berlin-Pankow in 2001, but has lately been in the local newspaper headlines due to a danger of needing to close their business –apparently their landlord has some better plans for the premises. Luckily, at least for the time being, we are still able to visit Saunarivm.

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Saunarivm is designed in the kitschy style of a Roman temple (all the way to their name) and has a Finnish sauna, a Tepidarium (60° C) and a Dampfbad. There is also a restaurant with a lot of seating space, and two separate outdoor areas.

We arrived at six in the evening, switched to our sauna gear and checked the Aufgussplan: menthol Aufguss at 18:30, and another one right after at 19 sharp. Quite a tight schedule, but we would at least try to attend both.

Turned out though that the menthol Aufguss was merely the Saunameister putting a bunch of ice cubes on the rocks, freeing up a mentholy, eye-stinging scent to the room.

The seven o’clock Aufguss wasn’t strictly traditional either: four steam rounds with a meditation theme. The setting for the meditation was a sound from a small gong-like instrument after each round of steam, and it was up to each participant how to reach for their inner zen. Four Aufguss rounds proved pretty tough for us, and we were happy to escape once it was over.

The rest of the hourly Aufgusses were of more traditional nature, three rounds with various scents. The ritual was performed skilfully each time. No complaints. The Aufgusses today were definitely on the hotter side, even to the extent that we decided not to sit on the highest seat during the two last ones.

Despite being one of the larger ones around, the sauna room was packed full during each Saunameister visit until 21. One has to be at least five minutes early to get a seating of their liking, or wait for the summer when Germans always inexplicably pause their sauna visits.

This sauna is directly under the plane descent path to Tegel airport. It depends completely on you if you’ll find this a prime opportunity for airplane spotting or a nuisance disturbing your cool-down meditation. In any case, if Saunarivm manages to stay open, the noise will go away as soon as Tegel closes later this year (if it does – Berlin airports tend to disregard all schedules).

Pros:

  • A rather large Finnish sauna with a very nice Aufguss
  • Roomy restaurant and outdoor areas
  • Friendly personnel

Cons:

  • Aufgusses tend to be a bit crowded
  • Kitschy style may offend your sensibilities

Conclusion:

A bit more spacious than your average Berlin Kiezsauna, with very enjoyable hourly Aufgusses. Saunamafia recommends!

 

Saunaclash revisited

Time flies! And it seems that Saunamafia is having more and more challenges getting together to sweat and to write. But we’re still here and will continue our hobby as long as unvisited saunas remain in Berlin. One peculiarity of 2019 has been that, despite our busy schedules, we’ve visited the Saunabad in Prenzlauer Berg at least three times without managing to publish the review. So, writing that shall be our new year’s resolution then (after one more visit of course).

Back to the topic however: the late autumn Saunaclash festival. We already reviewed the event in 2018, and it was such a success that we cleared some room from our calendars for a revisit. The festival took place in mid-October 2019, and we took part on a sunny Saturday evening.

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As always in sauna festivals, our mission was simple. Seven saunas, visit all of them. Here are our thoughts:

Modulbox “mo_sauna”

Reviewed in Saunaclash 2018. A compact wooden box placed on a trailer. As last time, the sauna was again scalding hot. We entered this sauna first and got in just when it was still tolerable, and left when the heat just became too much. Heat likely calmed a bit after the sauna got a full stream of visitors; too bad we didn’t have time to try it again at the end of the evening.

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Fasssauna on the left, Modulbox on the right.

Sweat’n’roll aka Fasssauna

A new one! As the name suggests, this is a big barrel. The sauna had no lighting inside, so it was almost pitch black. The oven was heated just to the right temperature, and this was pleasantly warm despite being fully crowded. With an enjoyable Aufguss this was our surprise favorite this evening!

Kleiner Wagen

Reviewed in Saunasplash 2019. Just as unique as last time, and definitely hot enough. We could sit only on the far side of this sauna as the oven was hot enough to fry our leg hair on any closer proximity.

Zarennest

A small unassuming Russian tent sauna also seen in Saunaclash 2018. Aufguss is very sharp, and heat stays in surprisingly well. As a nice bonus we found the bath broom whipping thing: vasta/vihta/venik in the tent.

Saunahoch13

Reviewed both in Saunaclash 2018 and Saunasplash 2019. This sauna is always pretty cool, both in appearance and warmth. One can basically sit, chat, and enjoy the mild heat almost indefinitely.

Firefit

The legend, classic red firetruck, seen in the previous sauna festivals. This time it felt a bit too cool, and didn’t top the favorite list of the evening as it usually does. Just goes to say how dependent the sauna experience is on heating and crowd turnover rate. Still, Firefit remains one of our biggest all time favourites.

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Firefit waiting for visitors.

Polygon

Familiar from Saunasplash 2019, this tent sauna delivered again a surprisingly good Aufguss.

The evening included additional program such as DJs, a wonderful Antifascist yodeling duo, and a massive warm pool that we didn’t dip into this time. Beers were available for a couple of euros.

We were the first ones to arrive, and had to leave just as the event was reaching its peak. As a downside we probably missed the best party, but on the other hand had a much easier time to fit in the small saunas – almost no queuing needed. You should choose your visiting time carefully: for sauna enjoyment early, for party mood later.

Saunasplash – Das Saunafestival

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Sauna enthusiasts of the world, unite!

This was the founding slogan behind Saunasplash, an event gathering sauna lovers from Berlin’s environs to join for mobile sweating at the Plötzensee beach. Eight saunas on wheels and hundreds of laid-back visitors over a sunny September weekend – an event not to miss.

Antti and Kalle were sent as Saunamafia representatives as the only ones available this weekend. The task: try them all. Without further ado, let’s cover the findings.

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Helpful map of the area

Le Camion

We started with the familiar Le Camion which we’ve already covered in our earlier reports from Ostbloc and Saunaclash. Good temperature as always, and we managed to catch an Aufguss too. A great start!

Hoch 13

Second sauna was also familiar from last year’s Saunaclash. An unconventional construction made of slatted frames. Today the sauna left us cold as it didn’t really get hot enough even during Aufguss. This didn’t bother too many visitors though, as a waiting queue had formed by the time were done.

BanyaMobil

A 7,5 ton Saunatruck formerly known as Fluchtkunst. A very big sauna room with two benches and lots of wasted space around. This sauna was very hot, by far hottest one in this event, which was quite surprising considering that the Harvia stove seemed rather small for the space. One of our favorites today as the heat differed so much from all the other options.

Polygon

A small, basic tent sauna with a surprisingly enjoyable Aufguss. The seating was a bit rickety, likely just a consequence of the tent being on beach. Be careful not to burn your leg hair sitting next to the oven!

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Polygon is built inside a supporting frame

Russian Banja

A very tidy, professionally built sauna trailer with a big Harvia stove. From inside the sauna looks basically just as a normal Finnish home sauna. Lacking a little bit in character compared to the other saunas in this event, but a very nice Aufguss.

Firefit

Already visited at the Saunaclash last year. The best mobile sauna ever, and seems like the customers also know this. Firefit is always heated to exactly the right temperature, and the self-served Aufguss is just as it should be: one can enjoy a long sauna session without getting exhausted.

Rosa

Rosa is a mobile sauna with a large panoramic window, built in an 814 Mercedes truck, yet again with a Harvia stove. The seating is the tallest and most spacious of this sauna collection. Temperature was a bit too cool when we visited but this was just because the stove hadn’t been fed. Hopefully we’ll be able to try again in some later event.

Kleiner Wagen

A Sauna built in an old caravan. The stove isn’t a traditional one with stones, but rather a regular wood-fired heating/cooking stove. A small water bowl placed on top was giving an ongoing Aufguss. The owner also prepared hot chocolate on it! Very cute.

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Kleiner Wagen after nightfall

This event was an absolute blast! Great hippie-like environment with light installations, music, food and beer by a peaceful lake as close to Berlin’s heart as possible, filled with saunas one nicer than the next one. Just as with the previous year’s Saunaclash, the clientele was considerable younger than usually seen in Berlin’s numerous saunas.

It’s terrific to see a community growing around such an esoteric hobby as mobile saunas. We’ll for sure visit the upcoming sister event Saunaclash in October!

The oaky delight

We tried to visit this Russian sauna already a year ago, but as we arrived to the location on the southern outskirts of Berlin, we realized it was closed due to the summer pause. This time we wanted to make sure our trip is not in vain and called the place beforehand. We got a confirmation, and on one sunny Sunday afternoon, drove down to Sauna Meteliza.

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Meteliza has a quite traditional setup: two sauna rooms, a cold pool, a Ruhereaum, a bar and an inner yard for relaxing. The place was in a very good condition, either renovated recently or not that old to begin with.

Only one of the two saunas was heated up today due to the low number of guests. Perhaps it was too sunny outside – for some incomprehensible reason sauna is a winter time activity in Germany. The lack of any crowds gave the sauna a laid back, almost a lazy atmosphere.

As we entered the sauna area, we got greeted by the super friendly owner Ivan, who was very eager to explain how things work here. Similarly to the Sauna Berezka we recently visited, this place doesn’t have the hourly Aufguss rituals, but the customers are welcome to steam up the room themselves. What we were very excited about, is that they also offer the traditional oak bath brooms (vasta or vihta in Finnish, venik in Russian), and we were able to buy one even without pre-reservation. As instructed by Ivan, we let the venik soak in a bucket of warm water for half an hour before the first round.

 

Sauna was heated up to 100 degrees which seems to be the lower boundary in Russian places, so very little steam was needed. The high temperature gave a bit different feeling from the traditional 80°C Finnish or German sauna – a continuous, unrelenting heat instead of fluctuations between high and low steam levels. It’s of course up to personal preference which one feels better, but at Saunamafia reviews we don’t discriminate!

For one of our fellows it was his first whipping experience with a bath broom ever. And it was a great one! The heat feels more intense while being beaten and the smell of oak leaves gives an additional flair to the procedure. As best sauna friends we shared the broom and also treated one another’s back. We can recommend to try it out when you have a chance, it’s definitely worth it! After three rounds of Aufguss, the broom was still in a good shape. Ivan insisted to take it home and reuse it at least one or two more times. Currently it’s waiting for its next mission in Mark’s bathroom and releases a nice continuous smell in the meanwhile.

Meteliza has also a separate room for billiards, and the friendly owner let us play a game of the Russian variant during one of our cool-down breaks. To be honest, the Russian version of the game is so hard we weren’t even close to finishing it before it was time for the next round.

After a nice Sunday sauna experience we went to the Croatian restaurant next door and had a nice and (for most of us) meat-heavy dinner.

Entrance fee is 17 EUR for three hours (or 22 EUR for a day pass), and beers were 4 EUR each.

Pros:

  • Do it yourself Aufguss
  • Veniks for sale
  • Very laid back atmosphere

Cons:

  • A bit hard to reach

Conclusion:

Very good Russian sauna at the southern end of Berlin. Wouldn’t be our first choice with a significant other, but works great with friends.

Historic sauna in a multi-culti Kiez

Stadtbad Neukölln is one of the most, if not the most, beautiful public swimming pools in Berlin. It was opened in 1914 and looks like an ancient thermal bath with decorative pillars and mosaic walls. It is also a maze. You’ll first head to the second floor changing room through a control gate, and then continue to third floor to the actual sauna area. Here you’ll find a restaurant with Ruheraum, six different saunas, a small relaxation pool, and staircase access to a rooftop terrace for cooling down.

 

 

We entered the first of the saunas – we aren’t actually sure which one it was, but something with pretty lights. The temperature was a bit too low, so we switched to the next one pretty soon. This time we hit the main attraction, the Finnish sauna, and that’s where we spent the rest of the evening (minus the required cool-down periods).

The sauna, and hallways in general, seemed rather empty on a first look. This completely changed as soon as it was time for the Aufguss: the sauna room was packed full in no time. Everyone found a seating spot, but for sure there wasn’t too many places left over. The Finnish sauna fits perhaps 30 people pretty comfortably.

The Saunameister introduced himself before every Aufguss and explained he is Syrian (but actually of Turkish Arab, Lebanese Jordanian origins). The Aufguss this evening was a bit on the milder side – especially the towel fanning didn’t really reach the topmost row too well – but still got our sweat flowing nicely. The Saunameister compensated for this with an additional, tougher round of steam for those who were still yearning for more after the main Aufguss. Plus there were special treatments in some of the Aufgusses: we got to rub ourselves once with salt and another time with honey.

The Aufguss takes place once per hour, and this dictated our evening as usual. The last one is already at nine o’clock (sauna closes at ten thirty), so come early enough to get your money’s worth. We were extra lucky this evening: as we expected another Aufguss at ten, the Saunameister showed compassion and did an extra round just for us.

Even though the members of Saunamafia are not Ruheraum enthusiasts, it is worth mentioning that this sauna has a lot of space to calm oneself down between Aufgusses. However, as usual, we spent our time tightly in the restaurant area whenever not sweating in the sauna room.

The outside area is functional and nothing special, and the rooftop is surrounded by walls, so no view. We assume it is a nice place to cool down and hang out in spring or summer. This evening it was cold and raining, so our smokers just took a puff and back inside we went.

We also visited the indoor swimming pool in the big hall (remember to bring your swimmies!). It’s big enough for small-scale swimming if not too crowded, and is in any case a very nice way to cool down in between the Aufgusses. The small hall was unfortunately not open, it looks very good on pictures though.

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Compared to your usual neighbourhood saunas, this one has a bit different clientele – younger, and more varied in general. The pool surely plays a big role in this, as you don’t have to be a hardcore sauna fan to spend your evening here.

Price for an unlimited sauna time is 19 EUR (three hours go for 16 EUR), and the beers in the restaurant were a couple of euros each.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous architecture
  • Many (six) sauna options
  • Access to outside cool-down area
  • The only (?) public pool with sauna beers available

Cons:

  • Aufguss can get very full

Conclusion:

Nice public sauna with restaurant & bar plus proper swimming pool in historic surroundings – urban and diverse clientele. Good place to go with friends as well as with your significant other.

 

The far east sauna paradise

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Sauna Idyll Biesdorf is located quite far out in the eastern Berlin. A tram drive from Mitte takes about 50 minutes, but offers a great chance to dive into the GDR-era Plattenbau architecture of Marzahn on the way. The sauna itself is located a bit further away, in an Einfamilienhausgebiet in Biesdorf. Here, in one of the far east districts of Berlin, a house has been turned into a hidden sauna Oase, welcoming guests already since 1990.

Entering the building we found ourselves standing alone in a small room with two doors both leading to an empty Umkleide. We were a bit confused – maybe there is another entrance somewhere? Mark solved the puzzle by getting out of his shoes, selecting one of the changing rooms and wandering through to the other end. He got wet socks, but we found the sauna premises and met a very friendly lady who promised to to give us a tour as soon as we had showered and changed to our Bademantels.

The sauna area fills the cellar level of the building. Downstairs there are two saunas, a Ruheraum with a fireplace, and a bar area. In addition the whole backyard is reserved for guests: a covered Wintergarten, pool, and a nice small sauna hut on the yard. The grand highlight: this sauna is wood-heated with a Finnish Harvia oven! This is exceptional in Berlin, and already by itself makes this sauna worth a visit.

This place has no Saunameisters, it’s all self-service. Of course it doesn’t prevent guests from performing their own Aufgusses and introducing new scents, like the ‘Finnish tar’ which may remind you of old ships. Very nice, but let’s get to the meat of this blog post now and review the saunas:

  1. The highlight first – the wood-fired sauna hut outside. This sauna fits about ten people comfortably. Guests keep the fire up themselves by adding more firewood when necessary. The Aufguss came out very soft, but this will depend on how hot the oven is kept. Overall feeling was very cozy indeed.
  2. The big Finnish-style sauna inside, a solid sauna experience. Nice and clean with plenty of space, around 90 degrees warm. The steam was a bit lost in the large room, so Aufguss felt somewhat lazy.
  3. The small Finnish-style sauna inside. This sauna room was hotter than the others, perhaps because of its size. The compact, elongated architecture made Aufguss move nicely against the topmost seats, providing a tight, warm puff of steam. Very good!

Throughout the evening we enjoyed friendly and relaxed atmosphere from both staff and guests alike. During the chit-chats with other guests we were particularly delighted by a small lesson about East German ice hockey history from a former Weißwasser hockey player. Insider tip: ask for the special non-alcoholic red drink at the bar.

We visited this place during the school winter holiday week. It’s thus a bit hard to say how full the sauna usually is – plenty of space this time, but could be we were just lucky with the timing.

Pros:

  • Wood heated sauna cabin
  • Do it yourself Aufguss
  • Friendly, down to earth atmosphere
  • Tasty pils from Thuringia!

Cons:

  • Little far outside (but a good public transport connection)

Conclusion:

Definitely one of the best and most unique saunas in Berlin. Some of us think it is the (current) number one place. You can go there with friends or your significant other. Worth a visit, even if it is a bit hard to reach.

The original Russian experience

For the first sauna of 2019 we chose Banja Berezka, a Russian sauna we had planned to visit for a long time. We were looking forward to find the truth about this place, but since they already close at 21.00, it took some time to find a fitting evening.

First feel was a very Russian indeed: the old man at the counter spoke pretty rough German (like some of us too). We got the locker keys and were told not to expect a Saunameister, another sign of the Russian experience to come.

Quick shower and to the sauna. Berezka has two identical sauna rooms, only one of which was heated up today. The control panel outside was showing a full 100 degrees, sounds good already! And indeed, one scoop of water was definitely enough to make us crouch a little bit. But even if it was very hot, it wasn’t exhausting, but rather pleasant. Very nice!

The good thing about not having a Saunameister and an hourly Aufguss is that the Sauna never gets too crowded. People are exchanged on a regular basis, and you can always expect a proper (self made) Aufguss when entering the sauna room.

Unfortunately we didn’t know that we’d have to preorder a vasta (those bunches of leafy branch whips to smack oneself within the sauna) – remarkably not birch as is usual in Finland, but made of oak branches. The other guests knew about this option and really treated themselves with a good leafy beating. We will definitely try it out the next time.

The bar area was a good spot to cool down while having a beer. The TV was showing a handball match (maybe this is a kind of sports bar sauna place, we can’t know for sure based on just one visit). But we enjoyed the atmosphere: friendly people coming and going from and to the sauna, eating dry fish snacks or pelmeni and having chats in Russian. Felt like an authentic sauna for locals – don’t come here for a cozy spa experience with your significant other.

For our smokers there was a little inner yard, mostly used as a parking place. So just okay for a quick puff, nothing to make you stay longer. Berezka also has a typical Ruheraum, and a cold water bucket for those who are missing a dip into an ice hole.

We rushed our last sauna round to be out of the door before the closing time at nine. When we left, the bar was still full of people drowning more pelmeni in smetana and downing vodka shots. Looked like the party was about to start only now. Maybe next time we will hang out a bit longer, and try to get into the inner circle.

Entrance is 10 EUR per person, and beers were about 2 EUR each.

Pros:

  • Very hot, but also very pleasant Aufguss
  • Do it yourself Aufguss
  • Vasta
  • Cheap
  • Authentic atmosphere

Cons:

  • The least romantic sauna in Berlin (could be also a Pro)

Conclusion:

A sympathetic Kiezsauna optimal for enjoying sauna the Russian way (which is very close to the Finnish way).